The article was written by guest blogger, Susan Maxsween, Manager, Healthcare Transformation Services Division.

As a healthcare consultant, I subscribe to many electronic venues to stay abreast of trends in healthcare and healthcare delivery.  Of late, I have noticed a great influx of articles and blog posts regarding the role and impact of social media in the health care arena.  As with any advances in technology and media, and, while all of this is good, some may challenge whether social media, medicine and patient care go hand-in-hand.  Further, some believe that social media is a fad and others believe that it offers no benefit to the physician and/or patient.

It goes without saying that social media reflects where healthcare is going and reflects a culture of change.  Social media will provide an opportunity for enhanced patient communication and self-responsibility through knowledge sharing, innovation and communication.

The reality is that as technology continues to advance, so do the patient demands.   Social media provides a venue for physicians and healthcare providers, from the broadest sense, an opportunity to showcase services and to demonstrate to patients that they are technologically savvy.

According to Don Sinko, Chief Integrity Officer with Cleveland Clinic, “one of the greatest risks of social media is ignoring social media.”  This is one situation of what you don’t know will hurt you. Social media can provide opportunities for people to promote services and while in other circumstances, to openly share issues/problems in an open forum.  Hence, physicians, hospitals and health care delivery systems need to be actively engaged in managing and tracking social media.

Social media, whether it is through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs or other venues, is having a tremendous impact on how patients promote and in essence, market services.  If a patient is happy with the care they received, this can provide a wonderful opportunity to promote a quality of care, and on the same note, if a patient experienced a bad encounter, this use of social media could cripple a given practice or care delivery system.  Patients are also using social media as an opportunity to share medical information, which can have a profound impact on decisions regarding care or ultimately, perhaps on a patient’s desire to achieve a second opinion.  According to Farris Timimi, M.D., medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, “Use of social media is not marketing.  It is the right thing to do.”

social media in health care and patient care

Customer experience, whether it is in retail or the healthcare arena is real and measurable, and can create customer loyalty and/or compromise it.  It is real and it is here and it must be acknowledged.  But, with sharing of personal experiences and asking of questions, it is paramount that HIPAA compliance remains at the forefront.  Patients, providers and healthcare delivery systems must be prudent in sharing of confidential information.  First and foremost, institutions, provider practices and healthcare delivery systems should have HIPAA policies in place to discuss the legal parameters with use of social media.  It is also critical that vendors with which you do business have clauses in their contracts that speak to adherence to HIPAA requirements.

What are your thoughts on how social media impacts health care and patient care?  Comment below.

Susan Maxsween can be reached at or by calling 315-635-9802.